When most baseball Hall-of-Famers are remembered by fans, it’s for their amazing performances on the field. Jim Rice, who spent his entire Major League Baseball career with the Boston Red Sox, certainly has a host of on-field achievements to celebrate, but it was another act of heroism that saw him become indelibly etched in Boston baseball legend. One fateful day, Jim Rice did what few people can claim to have done: he saved a life. Oh, and he did it right in the middle of Fenway Park! Allow us to explain.
A Hall of Fame career
During his 16-year tenure with the Red Sox, Rice’s stats were incredible. He hit an astounding 382 home runs, as well as 1,451 runs. In the three consecutive seasons between ‘77 and ’79 he had in excess of 35 homers and 200 hits, and in the ’78 season he won the MVP award.
By most metrics, he had earned a sure-fire ticket into the Hall of Fame, but there would be a significant delay in him actually attaining that honor. And many believe this was because of his less-than-friendly relationship with the media.
An antagonistic relationship with the press
The story goes that in 1976 a young Rice was lined up for a radio interview with Boston sportswriter Clif Keane, but he kept the veteran journalist waiting. When he finally turned up for the chat, Keane was incensed, and reportedly told Rice, “I can make you and I can break you!”
In Howard Bryant’s book Shut Out, Rice claimed he stood his ground, looked the old man right in the eye, and said, “You can't do anything to me.” In Rice’s opinion, “That was it. That was the beginning.”
A bad rep builds
For the rest of his career, Rice’s ornery reputation seemed to precede him, and the sports writers of America were far from his biggest fans. Or, at least, that’s the common perception of Rice’s character and career.
According to writer Joe Giuliotti, though, “He had a bad rep from people who really weren't around him enough to understand who he was. This was a very private guy from a small town in South Carolina who just wanted to play ball.”
What will he be remembered for?
Giuliotti continued, “At a time when he was the only black player on the team, he made it known that he was not getting into the black-white issues, but when he said he didn't want to talk about it, writers just kept coming after him.”
Significantly, though, while many may have bought into Rice’s reputation as an angry, unapproachable, intimidating presence, it was actually an act of quick-thinking heroism for which he will be most remembered when all is said and done.